Its been a difficult few weeks for Star Wars fans who have been rocked by the death of Carrie Fisher. Even more so consider her reportedly large role within the upcoming instalment of the series. Fortunately, the filming for Episode 8 has wrapped and Fisher will be making a posthumous return, but what about the final episode in this trilogy that also considers her role extremely important?
If we take a step back and look at the latest Star Wars adaptation, we can see Disney and Lucasfilms have a potential solution. Peter Cushing or as some may know him, Grand Moff Tarkin was digitally imprinted into Rogue One. Cushing, who died is 1994 was brought back to life by VFX artists and magicians to reprise the iconic role with express permission from his estate. Personally, had I not been told, I wouldn’t have known about this until after the release of the film which prompted a lot of controversy. Towards the end of the film we also witnessed a young Princess Leia using the same technology but was far more apparent.
Its being reported that Disney have already begun talks with Fisher’s estate to utilise her image as Princess Leia so they can finish this trilogy. As of what the talks will consist of or if there will be any script/story changes, we can’t be sure, but its hoped by many that if they come to an agreement, Leia will be done gracefully, not overdone and her role heavily reduced or ended appropriately.
Considering the impact of the character on the universe and the film industry, I can see a deal going ahead. Fisher’s estate owes a lot to the Leia character and the fans that have supported them the over decades and I feel that justice can be done for both Carrie and Leia to round out her career with respectfully.
What do you think of this? Would you like to see Fisher maintain her role through CGI? Let us know in the comment section below!
“Seriously, What The Hell Is Wrong With You People…?”
Whilst we bask in the sweltering heat of the British summer, where anything over 10 degrees celsius encourages everyone to take their tops off and bathe in layers upon layers of sun protector, there still remains the favoured few who would much rather sink into the dark, cool surroundings of the cinema and escape into the minds of filmmakers for two hours or so, away from the pain-inducing sight of the sun and away from the sweaty masses of the general public and vast displays of chest hair. Anyhow, with Batman v Superman still sitting in my mind as perhaps one of the biggest cinematic comic flops of recent years (Fantastic Four included) the DC Extended Universe rolls on and this week gives us the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad, yeah, that’s right, that film with the strange looking Joker and the one that has been plastered on every single screen for about two months continuously in some Nazi-esque propaganda fashion in order to not allow us to go without seeing some form of advertisement for at least 24 hours. With Batman v Superman still ringing through my mind like a hot poker, surely Suicide Squad is exceedingly better? Well, sort of, but not much, with Suicide Squad being a much more enjoyable experience in some sense but one that still contains a rafter of issues, some of which bear similarities to Batman v Superman and some that are brought upon itself from the latest offering of DC live-action mehness.
If you’re finely tuned into the world of comics, surely everyone is aware of the notion of the Suicide Squad in some form or the other. Although not strictly a fan of the literature form of such, I was first introduced to the team within Arrow in which we see one of the first live-action portrayals in one measly episode which gave the run-down on what the SS do and simply, how they do it. Now hitting the big time, the first major live-action display of the SS has been helmed by David Ayer, writer of the Oscar winning Training Day and director of movies such as End of Watch and Fury. So in terms of directorial choice, you would think Ayer would be the correct choice; a director attributed to dark, nihilistic action movies with a knack of not being swayed by the aspect of the twisted sense of togetherness of a team through sins of violence and crime, yet too many times through the film it felt as if we were back in the land of Zak Snyder. Limited characterisation followed by action set pieces with unbelievably cringey dialogue and a final act in which laughable CGI is meant to make the film include some sense of epic conclusion. Does it work? Not at all, yet the fault cannot be left solely at the feet of Ayer, with studio interference surely playing a part somehow. I mean a film this messy cannot be made without prodding and poking from a range of different areas, no more so than those throwing the money at it in order to see it succeed in one way or another.
So we’ve established problems with Suicide Squad that have been seen in previous DC Universe entries, yet one major problem that was extremely evident that I cannot say to have seen before is the unforgivable crass nature of the treatment of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the movie. Although Robbie herself is one of the few saving graces of the movie, with her kooky, crazy and yet sympathetic portrayal giving the first cinematic appearance of the character some form of justice, the way in which she is portrayed and wooed upon through costume design and camera angles is downright creepy. I can understand that the fundamentals of the character within the comics is one of a femme fetale nature, but to portray her in this fashion is just wrong on so many levels. Adding to the displeasure of the film is Jared Leto’s Joker, a character in which had so much exposure over the films’ tiresome advertisement campaign and then ultimately is in the film no more than five minutes, a decision so utterly stupid giving how much anticipation there was for the character that you don’t even get a full sense of Leto’s portrayal. Because of which, the jury is out when it comes to Leto. Who knows, if we get more than 5 minutes with him next time maybe he will be the definitive Joker? Doubt it.
Overall, Suicide Squad is a slightly more enjoyable DC flick than Batman v Superman, but one that still has a wide range of problems inherent in the extended universe so far. Although Robbie is the standout, Smith also gives a good interpretation of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, yet acting talent alone cannot prevent Suicide Squad from being yet another achingly poor showing from Warner Bros. With a soundtrack so bipolar following throughout and a sense of absence when it comes to a directorial stamping, Suicide Squad may indeed do well at the box office like its’ predecessors, but it still isn’t the film I, and probably many others, were indeed looking for. Marvel, it’s your batting next. Cumberbatch is calling.
Overall Score: 4/10
The biggest film of 2015 is finally here after years, almost decades of an excruciating wait for a true continuation of George Lucas’s original trilogy, something of which would attempt to eradicate the wholly mediocre memory that the prequels imprinted on the Star Wars community, whilst expanding the well and truly cherished universe for a whole new generation of young children who’s experience of The Force Awakens may indeed be their first taste of Star Wars on the big screen. With George Lucas handing directorial duties to renowned sci-fi enthusiast, J.J. Abrams, the man behind the reinvention of the Star Trek series, The Force Awakens was already heading in the desired direction with Lucas finally understanding that money can only go so far and what was truly needed with The Force Awakens was to return to the imaginative and truly immersive spectacle the original trilogy portrayed all the way back with the release of A New Hope in 1977. Has it succeeded? Is The Force Awakens the magnum opus of the Star Wars universe many have proclaimed it to be? Not exactly, but one thing is for sure, it is a resounding homecoming and like the original trilogy, a whole lotta fun.
Beginning once again with the legendary line of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, John Williams famous overture blasts onto our screens over the scrolling opening crawl that informs us of Luke Skywalker’s apparent disappearance and the rise of the First Order, a seedy, evil faction of the fallen galactic empire who are attempting to discover the location of the lost, legendary Jedi, an opening backdrop much more streamlined than the tax credit political nonsense that The Phantom Menace began with. So far, so good, and the film takes no time at all settling into the introduction of the both the film’s antagonist and protagonist with the Sith-ridden Kylo Ren being introduced through ruthless murder and an understanding of the force similar to that of Vader himself, whilst Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron comes across as the cocky, swaggering second shade of Han Solo himself, and already I’m sold. Within the first ten minutes of the film we are exposed to an understanding of the force unlike anything I have ever seen before and this is a riff played extensively upon throughout the course of The Force Awakens, resulting in a villain both ominous and ambiguous who is crippled by, excuse the pun, the force of expectation brought upon him due to his rather muddled family tree. No spoilers here.
Where Kylo Ren proves to be a real win in terms of the evil side of the force, the introduction of Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn are welcome entries into the Star Wars universe, with Rey particularly being a strong, independent, and well-developed female lead, expanding the rather limited female base of characters established in the universe so far and for that I’m glad. Following in the footsteps of the universally recognised R2-D2 also, is that of BB-8, the orange coated roller-ball who, along with the return of Chewbacca, brings the greatest comedic elements of the film, particularly in a scene where it responds to Finn’s thumbs up which resulted in the entire screening laughing in hysterics. As for the return of the golden-oldies, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is the obvious winner with him not only getting the greatest screen time, but also the best lines, most of which hark back to the original trilogy or his relationship with his favourite Wookie, a true bromance is ever there was one whilst it is his character which takes the front-line in the film’s most shocking twist, a cinematic moment on par with “I am your father”, and one that is set to send shock-waves across the Star Wars universe.
As for the film’s production, The Force Awakens is a particularly handsome movie with spectacular scenes of vast, endless landscapes, gorgeous looking CGI spaces battles, and a unnerving attention to detail that highlights the love and dedication to which the film has been made with. Where the film ultimately succeeds is in its’ sheer diversity to the prequels, with the dodgy CGI of the early 21st century being totally outclassed with the use of practical, real life props, giving the film that rustic aesthetic which makes you feel these places actually do exist and aren’t created on somebody’s computer, a brilliant change of direction, and one that leaves me reeling for more. For all the film’s brilliance, there are certain degrees of similarity in terms of plot which reduces the film’s overall originality, yet one can afford to overlook such weaknesses and exhale in relief. The Force Awakens is a true return to the magical wonder of the saga’s original trilogy, incorporating new, interesting characters whilst working a winning nostalgia appeal with the return of the series’ most famous faces. A real triumph. How many years until the next one?
Overall Score: 9/10
The hype is real and totally worth it!
Usually in these duo reviews it seems that I’m the one to poke holes in the plot, but I don’t know if I’m “fanboying” too much while mentally blocking most of them out. There isn’t many films that I would say that I’d gladly sit in the cinema and watch again, back to back, but I would for this. If you haven’t yet, go see this film!
As obvious as the statement is, this is undoubtedly a Star Wars film. What I mean by that is that it feels like a continuation of the originally trilogy. J.J Abrams decision to use more costumes and animatronics instead of relying solely on computer effects is a noticeable improvement, bringing a more organic feel to environments and sets.
The return of the previous cast is a welcome sight and a good measure of the passage of time. good to see that none of the previous actors have forgotten their roles despite it being 32 years since they were last in their characters shoes. Moving on to the new characters, as Dan said huge praise for Daisy Ridley’s character Rey, loved the character progression which was done at the right pace. Along with Oscar Isaac’s character Poe which immediately resembled a Han Solo personality and humour but thankfully not to the extent which he mirrors him. John Boyega’s character Finn slightly recalled me to how Luke was in the original film. Its often hinted throughout the film that there is something special about him but he struggles to become it but that’s not say that his character doesn’t also make loads of progression. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left the cinema wanting a BB-8 for Christmas. The lovable droid despite only commuting with limited gestures was hilarious and adorable even more so than I dare say R2-D2.
No Star Wars film is complete without the Dark Side. Though I admit I was originally sceptical to Adam Driver as the First Order’s Kylo Ren, however, he did an impressive job…while the mask was on. Without the mask he just didn’t seem as big nor as threatening, yet maybe that was deliberate. What Kylo Ren can do with the force though brings a new evil with the Sith (torture) and I love his character for that.
One little complaint I have would be with Gwendaline Christie’s character, Captain Phasma. Despite being one of the most advertised characters her role was minuscule with hardly any dialogue. She didn’t even fire her blaster once! Hopefully she will have a larger role in the future upcoming films.
The fight choreography is perfect for the setting of the film. No force triple back flips or over the top dance fighting which is how it should be. Every swing has the characters emotion in it, along with the amazing camera work and epic music it creates truly enjoyable fight scenes.
After watching the film you can clearly tell that J.J Abrams is a huge fan of the original trilogy and directed “The Force Awakens” for fans. Its safe to say that he hasn’t let us down at all. There are throw backs to the previous films but not so many that we are chocking on it or that it disrupts the pacing of the story. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next and hopefully it continues with this momentum.
If this had came out before I did my top 5 this would’ve easily been my number 1!
Best Film Scenes of 2015
Within every great movie is a scene of equal greatness, whether it be a memorable moment of character progression, a tear-jerking loss of a key character, or even something as trivial as a note of music that pulls at the heartstrings in a way that affects a particular viewer. Throughout 2015 there have been a vast amount of particular movie moments where the magic really kicks in, scenes in which have left a long-lasting impression within my mind and have resulted in either making the film a better picture or just a fantastic scene on its’ own ground albeit being in a overly mediocre movie. Within this list is Black Ribbon’s top ten most memorable scenes of 2015, starting promptly with…
10. A Meeting With Macha – Song of the Sea
Song of the Sea is many things. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring. Genuinely tear-inducing. Yet one of the things I didn’t expect from Tomm Moore’s animated masterpiece is the scene in which our beloved heroes come across the legendary owl-witch known as the Macha, whereby we witness the darker side of the Irish folklore in which Song of the Sea is based upon. Although most of Song of the Sea is undeniably child-friendly, the introduction to the insidious Macha was genuinely startling, resulting in a hallucinatory dream-scape of evil owls and creepy Irish folklore legends.
9. Confrontation With Jobs – Steve Jobs
Although Steve Jobs is directed by the fine hand of Danny Boyle, it undoubtedly belongs to the craftsman of screenplays himself, Aaron Sorkin, with its’ three-act structure being an effective stage for which Sorkin is allowed to play upon. Of the many wordy dialogues within the film, the scene in which Jobs is confronted by John Sculley within the second act of the film is the one that stands out the furthest, with Sorkin’s brilliant script being fully embraced by the acting duo of both Fassbender and Daniels whilst being offset with flashbacks of the past, all of which results in a heavy sense of escalating drama that gives credence to the simply unfair talent that Sorkin has unleashed upon directors such as Boyle and David Fincher, both of whom have enjoyed undeniable success because of such in Steve Jobs and The Social Network respectively.
8. Day of the Dead – Spectre
Before Spectre was even released, director Sam Mendes made sure that his latest entry into the Bond canon was set to have one of the most epic opening scenes in the film’s 53 year history, with the famous Day of the Dead in Mexico City being the backdrop for the return of everyone’s favourite English super-spy. Beginning with a seemingly one-take shot following Bond through the streets of Mexico City and onto the rooftops above, Spectre’s opening scene definitely ramps up the thrills and skills, with Bond mercifully tracking down and defeating a high-ranking agent of SPECTRE all-the-while attempting to keep the poor innocents of Mexico City with their lives intact from the rogue helicopter in which our enemy decides to escape within. Mr Mendes, you were right. The opening scene of Spectre is one to be treasured.
7. The Walk – The Walk
Although not exactly the greatest film of the year, with the release of Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk essentially just being a dramatic re-telling of the superior documentary Man on Wire, one thing the film did have going for it was the exceptional titular sequence in which Philippe Petit crosses the Twin Towers with nothing more than his wit and skill as a wire-walker to keep him alive. As a self-confessed hater of heights as it is, the concluding 30 minute scene of The Walk was a sheer nail-biting collage of vertigo-esque tension, where even though I was fully aware of Petit’s incredible success, resulted in an sense of intolerable discomfort in the best way possible, something of which is owed simply to the brilliant way in which Zemeckis’ titular act is filmed. Simply breathtaking.
6. F**K Tha Police – Straight Outta Compton
Some of the best films are those that unexpectedly turn out to be real gems and surpass any expectations they have had before it, and in the case of Straight Outta Compton, F. Gary Gray’s real firecracker of a drama based upon the rise of the notorious hip-hop group, N.W.A, what a surprise it was to witness its’ brilliantly managed explosive temperament and uncanny portrayals of the genre’s most decorated patrons. Within the film’s many great scenes is the recording sessions of the group’s titular debut album, particularly that of their most notorious single, “F**K Tha Police”, recorded after a confrontation with the somewhat backward’s handling of the Los Angeles police department whose racial stereotypes present in the early 1990’s are made abundantly clear within Straight Outta Compton, yet it’s the ferocious response from the group into recording arguably their most famous hit which creates one of the most entertaining scenes of 2015.
5. Showdown With Gordo – The Gift
Written, directed and starring Joel Edgerton, The Gift proved to be a real tense and taut claustrophobic chiller thriller with Edgerton sinking in almost too well into the role of Gordo, the creepy stalker hell bent on making the lives of both Simon and Robyn Callum rather awkward with a selection of creepy get-together’s and unwanted hand-delivered gifts. The real winning success of The Gift however is down to the nature in which Edgerton’s portrayal of Gordo is one of a rather mixed and ambiguous nature, resorting to feelings of compassion towards someone who is obviously rather troubled at heart. One of the most incredible scenes within The Gift is when we witness the rather fiery Simon confront Gordo at his place of work, yet instead of being on the side of the targeted Simon, the sight of Gordo’s sheer embarrassment as his real life is discovered results in a collage of conflicting feelings, something of which has stayed with me ever since the film’s release.
4. Madness Prevails – Macbeth
Transferring the dark, twisted tale of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the big-screen is no easy feat in itself, yet Snowtown director Justin Kurzel manages to embrace the bloody nature of the famous text and turns it into essentially a horror flick with glorious displays of violence, something of which won’t exactly be shown to schoolkids examining the play for the sake of education. Of the many great scenes within Kurzel’s adaptation is when we witness the titular Macbeth, played majestically by Michael Fassbender, start to go completely bonkers at a royal feast in front of his loving, loyal wife and fellow ruling family and friends where, reeling from the violent slaughter of Banquo by his own hand, Macbeth begins to hallucinate his bleeding, pierced body dining at his feast, resulting in a crazed, frightened Macbeth showing how the power of being King has truly began to corrupt him. It’s a wonderful scene and one in which Fassbender’s raw and ripe acting talents are once again put on display.
3. Thermal Imagery – Sicario
If Sicario is not the film that finally wins the simply brilliant Roger Deakins an Oscar for his cinematography skills then I am pretty sure nothing will. One of the most talked about shots of the year is the scene in which we witness the spook-like militaristic agents disappear into darkness in search of a drug-trafficking tunnel and it is here where the best scene of the film begins. Switching between complete darkness and thermal imagery, our venture into the pitch black tunnel of horror, all seen through the eyes of unknowing FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), is nail-biting tension in its’ most extreme, even more so than the scariest traffic jam ever we witness earlier in the film, yet it is the ambiguous nature of both our heroines nature and what lies for her in the tunnel which makes this particular scene a true gem and definitely the most tense twenty minutes of the entire year.
2. Goodbye Bing Bong – Inside Out
I love Disney, I’m not afraid to say it, and I love Inside Out even more. Not only is it wholly original and incredibly intelligent but it also features the most heartbreaking cinematic moment of the year by a long shot. After falling into the subconscious and memory dump of Riley’s mind, Joy and imaginary friend Bing Bong attempt to escape via that of Bing Bong’s homemade rocket ship yet after being originally unsuccessful, Bing Bong sacrifices himself to get Joy safely back to head office, who subsequently disappears into dust, much to the despair of everyone, including myself, who found it hard to hold back the tears, regardless of the extent to which lip biting came into effect. It’s a scene as heartbreaking as the death of Mufasa and reinforces Disney’s ability to make every human resort to their inner child and weep with sheer sadness. Damn you!
1. A Final Encore – Whiplash
The final ten minutes of Whiplash are among the greatest of cinema within the past decade or so, if not of all time, with the final drum solo combining sheer tension and thrills, resulting in a storming final encore for both Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman and Damien Chazelle’s simply brilliant drama surrounding the abusive teachings of Oscar winning supporting actor J.K. Simmons as the terrifying Terrence Fletcher. Although drumming and the entire aspect of drums are as exciting to me as a wet flannel, somehow Whiplash is a film that just is just majestic in its’ execution with Tom Cross’s editing one of the many reasons for such, and it is here within the final scene where his skills are truly put to the test, resulting in a stunning tour de force of blood, sweat and tears which left me simply breathless. With that in mind, scene of the year belongs to Whiplash, and boy does it deserve it.
Bald Stone Killer
When it comes to big-screen adaptations of world-famous video games it is well established that such films tend not to do so well both in the critical and commercial sense with the biggest examples being the terrible Silent Hill series, the shockingly dour Max Payne, and the Resident Evil series, which although stands out as being one of the better transformations from console to cinema, has slowly been hung, drawn and quartered resulting in its’ most recent entries seemingly being squeezed so far from its’ original format, they are only a shadow of the much more superior games in which they first were presented upon. Adding to the spectacular face-palm-esque bundle of video game movies this week is Hitman: Agent 47, a film which follows in the footsteps of its’ brothers’ in arms by being not only shockingly terrible, but single-handedly tainting the excellence of the video games in which it is based upon (I mean Hitman: Blood Money was rather brill right?). Remember the first Hitman movie adaptation released a few years ago? Well that is Citizen Kane in comparison to this dull, lacklustre excuse of a movie in which its’ only real purpose in life is to pursue the bucks of those who desire the original games so dearly.
So in terms of plot, Rupert Friend plays Agent 47, a joyless, lifeless, emotionless, hairless killer raised under the wing of geneticist Dr. Peter Litvenko (Hinds) who after years of hiding is located by Syndicate leader Antoine LeClerq who sends T-1000 rip-off John Smith (Quinto) to track him down in order to use his vast knowledge of the Agent programme and create his own personal army of silent assassins. Boring, boring, boring. Also in there somewhere is a plot thread about Litvenko’s daughter but to be honest, I care as much about the plot of this film as the team obviously did behind making it with Agent 47 being a constant cycle of cliche after cliche, cringe-worthy speech after cringe-worthy speech and acting so wooden, I was surprised none of the actors came out petrified at the end of it. Add into the mix awful CGI, a overload of pointless violence, and quotes (The “what you do that defines you” speech from Batman Begins), scenes (The metal detector/gun scene from The Matrix) and characters (T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day) just stolen from other, and subsequently better movies, Hitman: Agent 47 is nothing more than overlong Audi commercial which just happened to find the rights to one of the biggest video games since the birth of gaming. Incredibly awful.
Overall Score: 2/10
From Russia With Love
With gun’s and gangster’s auteur Guy Ritchie seemingly popping off the radar recently, even after the release of the two Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, which let’s face it, were rather forgettable affairs in comparison to the much better BBC series, his decision to return with a cinematic release of the famous U.S television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E was a strange one to say the least. Yet after promising trailers and a superb cast including Man of Steel‘s Henry Cavill, The Social Network‘s Archie Hammer, and queen of 2015, Alicia Vikander who has starred in everything this year from Ex Machina to Seventh Son, Ritchie’s latest cinematic offering was something I was rather excited for yet its’ final product ultimately is something unfortunately much more forgettable with only rare flashes of brilliance in what can only be regarded as great idea not fulfilled to its’ full potential.
After news of a potential nuclear threat is made by business mogul and suspected criminal Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), American agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) is tasked with teaming up with Russian agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) in order to combat the supposed threat, aided by Russian defector Gaby Teller whose missing father may or not be aiding such developments. With moments of sheer entertainment, particularly in regards to the banter-esque relationship between our two main heroes, and scenes of high comedic value, with the late torture scene coming first to mind, The Man From U.N.C.L.E shows signs of how Ritchie could have potentially found an overly winning formula for such a film, but is ultimately let down by an overly cliched plot, a shocking lack of overall threat, and a desire to retreat to flashbacks to spoon-feed details of the plot. A missed opportunity? Possibly, but for the time it was on, The Man From U.N.C.L.E was reasonably harmless, just not overly memorable.
Overall Score: 6/10
Let’s get right to this. Any decent superhero/comic book fan will know of Deadpool. Above we see parts of the reveal trailers and the leaks all bundled into one hell of a package. From this small short, we can really begin to see how Ryan Reynolds fills the shoes of one of the most beloved characters of the universe. Down below is the trailer for the trailer which tears into Reynolds previous appearance as Wade in some of the best marketing I’ve seen in a very long time.
Now personally, I’m not sure how this movie will fair with the general public who don’t know of the character and I worry that his reach and the violence may not appeal to them. Lets hope the Marvel community goes out in droves for this because we could be looking at a cult classic of the superhero universe!
The British Invasion
It never fails to amaze me how even after years of movie companies churning out the same age-old tale of the super-spy, whether he be American or British, that even in 2015, such a story can be just as entertaining and thrilling as ever, and in the case of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the fifth entry into the cinematic series based on the American TV series of the same name, the argument that too much of the same will inevitably get boring is lost in the chaotic spectacle that is Tom Cruise’s latest run out as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt. If the first M:I showed us that stunts and deception were the core traits of the series, then Rogue Nation laps up such a notion and turns it up to eleven, with the film offering as much spectacle as all the previous entries in the series put together, whilst fully embodying the comedic element supplied by the inclusion of Simon Pegg in a clear attempt to distance itself from the darker and much tougher spy movies we have been used to recently in the form of the Bourne Series and the Craig-era of James Bond.
In terms of the high points within the movie, the scene in which our beloved hero tracks down the leader of the so-called Syndicate during an operatic session within Vienna was a fabulous concoction of thrills, comedy and high-risk tension, with the background performance adding to the sense of drama that was occurring on-screen. Other highlights included the constant comedic output supplied by our team of agents, with Simon Pegg gratefully lapping up the chance to keep the British end up and be the star of the film in scenes in which we are reminded of how much a step-away Rogue Nation has decided to be from the darkness of say Skyfall and, I assume, Spectre, which from watching the trailer, looks even darker than its’ predecessor. Setbacks within the film include the obvious over-use of CGI in certain scenes which unfortunately only weakens the sense of reality we get from watching scenes and stunts that did not rely on CGI and were actually done FOR REAL in a George Miller-esque fashion, whilst the overarching villain in the form of Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane, won’t exactly be remembered outside of the film, with it being a rather hollow and cliched performance from start to finish. Rogue Nation therefore features a whole lot of thrills, but ultimately, a few too many spills, making it entertaining for the time-being, but definitely not something to be treasured for the long-run. Still, its’ better than M:I 2. Seriously John Woo, stop with the doves.
Overall Score: 7/10
Get In The Ring
Sitting side-by-side with the release of Inside Out this week is the release of Southpaw, a boxing drama which focuses on the rise and fall of Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Donnie Darko, Zodiac) Billy Hope after witnessing the death of his beloved wife (Rachel McAdams, True Detective) whilst being directed by Antoine Fuqua, the American mastermind behind the Oscar Winning Training Day and the not-so-Oscar-winning The Equalizer from last year. What brought the most anticipation from the film for me personally however, aside from the brilliant Gyllenhaal, was its’ scriptwriter, Kurt Sutter, the architect behind one of the most addictive shows of recent years, Sons of Anarchy, who takes full control of the story for the very first time in a cinematic format after years of making waves on the small screen. The question that needs to be answered therefore is does Sutter’s first taste of Hollywood pull out all the punches or does it find itself seriously on the ropes? I’d say somewhere in between.
Throughout the course of the movies two-hour runtime, there are examples of Sutter in his prime, particularly in regards to scenes in which we witness out hero Hope break down under the influence of his wife’s loss, showing how in moments of desperation and despair, Sutter’s writing can flourish. One obvious difference for me between Southpaw and Sons of Anarchy for example was the way in which I never felt guilty or treacherous in my support for the films’ lead, something of which I felt whilst watching Sons of Anarchy where the bulk of the time, our supposed “heroes” are off committing murder or some other form of major crime. Of course, one of the reasons Sutter’s writing works so well is mainly due in part to the performance of Gyllenhaal, who once again astutely showcases his talent as an actor and gives the best sporting performance I’ve seen since Christian Bale in The Fighter, a performance that subsequently won him an Oscar, whilst solidly being supported by the veteran of cinema that is Forest Whitaker as coach Titus Wills.
In terms of the overall quality of the film however, Southpaw’s connection with The Fighter ultimately stops there however with the latter being a much better piece of cinema as a whole, whilst the former having flashes of brilliance, particularly in the nail-biting fight sequences, but overall feeling rather cliched and even cringe-worthy in some places, particularly the “guest” additions of both the pimp-looking Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and the rather worse-for-wear Rita Ora, who although improves from her rather pants cameo in Fifty Shades of Grey, doesn’t exactly inspire hope for any chance of a future career away from BBC One and into Hollywood. So for a first shot at the gates of Hollywood, Sutter gives it his all in producing a script worthy of a one-time viewing, but definitely nothing more, whilst director Fuqua definitely improves on the rather arduous watch that was last years’ The Equalizer and succeeds in producing a film that lasts as many rounds as it needs to, but ultimately fails to launch that final, winning blow.
Overall Score: 6/10
DAN – With the release of Peyton Reed’s Ant Man this week, the mammoth of a machine that is Marvel continues to ever-grow and seemingly swallow everything in its’ path, regardless of the competition at hand. With Comic Con last week seemingly handing the hype trophy over to DC due in part to the explosion of Batman and TV related goodness, cast interviews and movie trailers, particularly that of the eagerly anticipated Suicide Squad, it seems obvious that DC are staging an attempt to sway the Marvel machine off its’ course for the time being even though they still hold the award for best comic-related movie ever in the form of The Dark Knight. So with DC winning the hype-race at Comic Con, Marvel have seemingly decided to take a seat back from the fire-fight for the time being and allow us to revel in the formation of a new Avenger in the form of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, the incarcerated criminal who unwillingly undertakes the role of Ant Man under the guidance of Micheal Douglas’s Hank Pym, a retired former S.H.I.E.L.D agent who had once previously been the occupier of the famous Ant Man suit. Where before Marvel films have seemed to undertake a very similar, formulaic layout, Ant Man points more towards the spectrum of Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly in terms of its’ high comedic value, something of which makes Ant Man one of the most enjoyable Marvel entries so far, and ultimately concludes Phase Two of the MCU in a rather cool and collective fashion.
The entire reason for why Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded so well last year was the unexpected turn it took from the rather similar and over-used Marvel film blueprint for almost all entries in the MCU up to its’ release, with it combining a underlying comedic element and self-mockery to the fundamental questionable concept of a team of heroes that combined a tree and a talking raccoon. Add in a scorching soundtrack and a well-chosen cast, Guardians of the Galaxy truly was one of the highlights of last year, let alone in its’ own expandable universe, and Ant Man swiftly follows suit by once again being another Marvel related success which combines a huge riff of comedy, due in part to the influence of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish who left half-way through production, and a wonderful cast, strongly spearheaded by the one-two of both Rudd and Douglas. Compared to the spectacle of most MCU-related movies, it was actually quite refreshing to see Ant Man take more of a low-key approach, with the action only really taking place in the final act of the film after some interesting and highly enjoyable character development in the first two-thirds, with scenes in which the miniaturisation was used in a hugely comical manner being one of the many highlights of the film.
Other highlights of the film included Ant Man’s accidental meeting with a fully-formed Avenger and the way the film included Easter Eggs and references to the MCU, particularly its’ attempt to signify its’ move away from the Avengers with Pym’s statement of them being busy “toppling a city somewhere”, rather tongue-in-cheek at the destruction caused in Age of Ultron. Such levels of destruction thankfully cannot be attributed to Ant Man however with the biggest moment of chaos being caused by an enlargement of Thomas the Tank Engine in a scene with produced chuckles from the entire screening audience. In terms of the problems, Ant Man does seem to bear resemblance to Guardians a bit too much resulting in a lack of freshness from Marvel’s POV, particularly when the latter was only released last year, whilst the plot thread of the Quantum Realm seemed a bit too rushed and jack-hammered in to be truly interesting. All in all however, Ant Man succeeds in being a rather entertaining and much welcomed entry into the MCU, and in my opinion beats Age of Ultron for best Marvel film so far this year. Up next, Fantastic Four. What a time to be alive.
Dan’s Score: 8/10
PETE – Dan has hit the nail on the head. Ant-Man was another one of the MCU’s films that honestly looked a bit naff. The trailers were lacking and it felt like the whole movie was pretty much summed up within them, yet like Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a huge surprise. The journey of an ex-con turned superhero was fantastic. Instead of dropping you into a story with characters who know their powers, their limits and strengths, we actually see a someone become a hero who doesn’t have infinite wealth or training to begin with.
The story was great fun. Ant-Man always seemed a but dull to me but Marvel have the uncanny ability to create characters that are so likeable and fun that make me want to run down to the comic store and dig into the back catalogue for a little more. Now as I haven’t seen anything involving Ant-Man, I can only say that I enjoyed the portrayal I saw, whether it is accurate or not. Paul Rudd simply doesn’t age and I’m sure for many years to come we could see him playing this role because he was great fun. His comedic wrap sheet means that he can execute lines on a whim and be extremely convincing doing so. Its the character that he can embody. Yet, considering Ant-Man is supposed to have a master degree, we really don’t see much about this at all but hopefully we can see it in his next outing.
It makes me wonder how people become evil in the Marvel world. The claims of righteous acts aren’t enough to justify it for me. When you watch a massive city/town lifted into the sky and the Avengers destroying this giant threat, why would you honestly think that your squishy body has any sort of chance. The ending for said villain was rather quick and honestly it felt a little rushed. The sequence was fantastic fun but it was to short compared to the entirety of the movie but nevertheless, it isn’t the typical way we see Marvel villains go and is rather liberating to see it so.
Marvel are great when it comes to visuals but it does feel as if Ant-Man’s budget was a little smaller in the CGI department as all the backgrounds in the miniature scenes lacked fidelity as looked very fuzzy. As for the rest, the ants look awesome and the giant scenes tended to uphold the general trend set by Marvel. The music was on point and the action was explosive and funny all at once. Is it better than Guardians? No. Is it worth your time? Hell yes. Its great and I really can’t wait until he makes an appearance in other instalments and we get a lot more cameos. PS – That SHIELD cameo was pretty damn epic! 8/10!
Overall Score – 8/10